Bhubaneswar: Fear of law should be instilled among the people in villages of rural Odisha in order to curb witch-hunting practice, which is on the rise in various parts of the State despite awareness campaigns, said Special DG, Crime Branch BK Sharma here on Saturday.
Delivering his speech during a workshop on “Witch Hunting: A call for abolition” at Utkal University, Sharma said witch-hunt and superstition related atrocities are very alarming in Keonjhar, Mayurbhanj, Rayagada, Nabarangpur and Ganjam districts.
“In 2015, 58 cases were registered which went up to 83 in 2016. In 2017 till by June, 59 cases have already been registered under the Odisha Prevention of Witch Hunting Act-2013. The trend shows the number might go up to 120 by end of this year,” the top cop explained.
With an aim to stop this macabre crime, the State brought Odisha Prevention of Witch Hunting Act-2013 with provisions of imprisonment of seven years and penalty. But, the practice is still very much prevalent in rural Odisha due to lack of education and awareness.
“Despite stringent law what can possibly play a great role in eradicating witch-hunting practice is massive awareness campaigns at village level and proper education,” said Sashiprava Bindhani, Commissioner of State Information Commission, who attended the event as chief guest.
She also said that the women in rural areas are the most vulnerable and many a times, the perpetrators take pride in killing these women and their family members in the name of doing good for fellow villagers.
Sharma, who admitted that initially police personnel in the affected areas used to be non-serious about the incident which was adding to the woes of the victims but the State Crime Branch has been conducting training programmes and awareness drives for the cops too to make them more sensitive in handling such cases.
“Women have been killed, tonsured, sexually abused and put to unbearable punishment after branding them witch. Public humiliation and brutality of the crime in witch-hunting cases is so heinous and unimaginable, which can only be checked by giving exemplary punishment in some sensational cases,” Sharma pointed out.
The workshop was organized by the School of Women’s Studies (SWS) of the varsity. Vice chancellor S.M. Patnaik, Prof. Sabita Acharya, director of SWS and few other dignitaries were present on the occasion.